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Communication Facilities, Inc. Upgrades to the Cloud to Monitor Cellular Towers

We've become a society dependent upon our cell phones and accustomed to constant communication. If our cellular service goes down, we're out of touch, unable to conduct business, and can't access our daily dose of social media, games, news and videos. That's a lot of responsibility for someone like Dave Libby, who owns and manages more than 25 cellular towers and sites throughout Maine.

Libby's company, Communications Facilities, Inc., has been relying on Sensaphone remote monitoring devices to alert him to problems at his sites for more than ten years. His clients include Verizon® Wireless, AT&T® Wireless, T-Mobile®, U.S. Cellular® and Sprint®. He also manages public safety accounts for police, sheriff, fire and EMS departments.

Not all of Libby's cellular sites are the tall towers that we see looming on the landscape. Some are smaller towers or antennas mounted on building rooftops. Each situation is unique, with Libby owning some sites and managing others. 

"When the power goes out, I have to know ASAP. I also need to be alerted when the generator starts," Libby said. "And if I don't get notification that the generator is working, I've got big problems and need to head to the site immediately."

Cloud-based Conveniences

For years he has relied with great success on Sensaphone's WEB600 system to monitor the cell sites. But he recently upgraded two of his 16 WEB600s with Sentinel monitoring devices. He was motivated to make the switch because one of his sites exceeds the six-zone monitoring capability of the WEB600. Impressed with the Sentinel system’s technological advantages and added functionality, he plans to install them at his other 14 sites over the next few months.

"Most importantly, the Sentinel is a supervised system, meaning it knows and alerts me if my communications link to the unit goes down," Libby said. "Because it's cloud based, it monitors itself."

While Libby found the WEB600 interface sufficient for years, he could only look at the data for one site at a time. With Sentinel systems, he can see status information for all of his sites on one dashboard. And he can view it on any mobile device through the website. This saves time, especially on Fridays when he reviews the data from all of his monitoring devices.

"The app is great—a one-stop view of all of my sites. And the map is a plus, because the red dots indicate trouble at one glance," he added.

Monitoring the Cellular Sites

cell tower

In the days before remote monitoring devices, Libby would not know when the power went out at a site. Although the generator would automatically start and carry the load, it would eventually deplete the fuel supply, and the power would go down again. The result would be a high fuel bill from burning a few hundred gallons of propane—and customer dissatisfaction. With Sensaphone devices, Libby cost-effectively monitors utility power and generator operation 24/7.

He also needs to monitor the lighting systems for his five tallest towers. The Federal Aviation Administration requires towers over 200 feet tall to have side and top light beacons to warn aircraft pilots. If there's a light outage, he must notify the FAA within 30 minutes or face fines—and a potential air disaster.

Monitoring room temperature is also important. At building sites, he must make sure that it doesn't get cold enough for pipes to freeze and potentially burst. Heat can wreak havoc too. If the air conditioning goes out, the heat can ruin equipment and trigger sprinkler systems.

Libby also places sensors on the doors at his sites. When a door open alarm comes in he knows that someone is in the facility and he can monitor the area with an IP camera. He uses the Sentinel’s “alarm reset” function, to resend alarms every hour for up to eight hours in monitored zones. If a tenant entered a building in the morning, and he is still getting a door open alarm at night, he knows that the door was left open.

The “alarm reset” function also serves as a handy reminder of power outages at sites that have generators actively operating. Libby sets the generator alarm to resend every eight hours from a particular site to remind him that the utility power is still out and that the facility is running on back-up.

"Knowledge is power, and the WEB600s and Sentinel systems provide all the information I need to react quickly to a problem at my sites," Libby said.

Working with Sensaphone over the years to provide the best monitoring solutions and support for all of his cellular sites, Libby is quick to mention how responsive the team is to respond to any inquiries or requests to troubleshoot a service question.

"I provide expert, top-notch customer service to my clients, so I am always impressed when a vendor like Sensaphone provides the same type of service," Libby noted.